The RX mid-sized crossover is the most successful vehicle in the Lexus lineup. Its name is almost synonymous with hybrids because Lexus was a pioneer in the luxury hybrid section. The RX already does a lot of things well, and the hybrid version, the 2021 Lexus RX 450h is the luxury crossover to beat. 2020 saw a major refresh to the RX mid-sized crossover. So, the 2021 version is only slightly updated with more standard safety equipment and subtle style upgrades.
The 2021 RX 450h comes in four model trims. There’s the base 450h with all-wheel drive and hybrid fuel economy. There is a 450h F Sport with all-wheel drive and an F Sport Black Line Special Edition. The Special Edition is a limited run with only 1,000 vehicles. Lastly, there’s the 450hL. This model stretches the vehicle to accommodate a third row of seating.
2021 Lexus RX 450h: Performance First. Hybrid Second
The 2021 Lexus RX 450h gets a combined 30 miles per gallon. There are thriftier hybrids on the market, but very few that can match the performance of the 2021 RX crossover. It’s capable of reaching 308 horsepower on the F Sport and 450hL models. There’s a rotary dial selector in the center console. It’s a drive mode selector that toggles between eco, normal, sport, and an EV mode that drives the RX hybrid for short distances solely on electric power.
The 2021 RX Hybrid has a 3.5 Liter V6 engine with dynamic torque all-wheel drive. The gasoline engine is bolstered by two electric motors and a battery bank. The hybrid powertrain is managed by an 8-speed electronically controlled CVT with paddle shifters on the steering column. In truth, the gasoline engine produces front-wheel drive, and the electric motors propel the rear.
The 2021 RX Hybrid can go from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, but you should know that its speed is reduced to 8.1 seconds in the 450hL. All of the hybrid RX vehicles have a top track speed of 112 miles per hour.
Does F Sport Make the RX Hybrid Faster?
Although the F Sport model doesn’t do much to improve acceleration or top speed, it does sound better. That’s because the exhaust sound is channeled through the cabin to add sportiness to the RX hybrid’s driving experience.
The F Sport RX Hybrid isn’t all about speed, but really shines in its handling. It has adaptive dampers that tighten the steering response making the RX Hybrid drive more like a sports car and less like a clunky electric concept car. It also has an F Sport tuned suspension on the front and rear chassis. The result is a corner carving crossover that really sticks to the road.
Upscale Style of the Lexus RX Hybrid
Looking at the exterior of the 2021 RX crossover is a bit like looking through a kaleidoscope. There are angles, cuts, and reflective paneling everywhere along the body. The 2021 RX Hybrid has a pinched, hourglass front grille with trim LED headlights. Overall, the front of the Lexus RX presents the vehicle as a sharp and edgy hybrid.
The angular exactness of the RX’s style is toned down a bit in the profile. Lines are a bit more subtle with a floating roof over the rear C pillars. The RX has a power liftgate. The hourglass motif returns in the rear of the RX and so do the sharply tapered lights.
The 450hL is a bit longer (by about 4 inches) to accommodate a third row of seating inside. The difference is negligible from the outside, but unmistakable from the interior cabin. For 2021, power-folding and auto dimming side mirrors are standard.
18-inch wheels come standard on all RX vehicles, all but the F Sport models. Those have dark alloy 20-inch wheels that fill the wheel well nicely. The F Sport Special Edition has a sporty black strip of paneling on the profile and a blacked-out grille.
Interior Comfort and Convenience
The seating has synthetic leather, but real premium leather can be equipped with a luxury package. Even without genuine leather, the contrast of wood trim creates the refinement that a Lexus customer would come to expect from a luxury crossover.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel and soft touch surfaces make the RX hybrid a cocoon of comfort, but that comes as little surprise given the RX crossover’s reputation. There’s 44.1 inches of legroom for front passengers and 38 inches of legroom for rear passengers. As far as mid-sized crossovers go, the 2021 Lexus RX Hybrid checks all the boxes as a five-seater.
The 2021 450hL adds a third row of seating to the RX Hybrid, but any adult would be frustrated with the amount of space back there. It only adds a single passenger space, so it’s out of sorts to call it a “row”. To be fair, the 350L (the non-hybrid model) has seating for 7. The one saving grace of the 450hL’s interior is the available rear captain’s chairs that recline.
The F Sport can be outfitted with brushed aluminum accents and bold red leather with thick side bolsters, which instantly transform the 2021 RX into something akin to an Aston Martin or Porsche. Nobody will be able to accuse the Lexus RX of being tame after a ride in the F Sport.
Safety Equipment from Lexus
Thankfully, the 2021 RX Hybrid crossover gets Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alerts as standard safety equipment. That’s a new addition to the 2021 line. The Lexus Safety System 2.0 comes standard on all RX 450h vehicles.
That safety suite comes with lane tracing assist and lane departure warnings. Drift too far and the steering assist gently guides you back between the lines. There’s a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian and road sign detection. Plus, there’s intelligent high beams and adaptive cruise control.
2021 Lexus RX 450h Technology
Inside the cabin, the eye is immediately drawn to the touchscreen display. It sits high over the center console creating a top-heavy cliff-face that cascades down toward the drive mode shifter. The 2021 RX Hybrid comes with an 8-inch touchscreen, but it’d be hard to resist upgrading to the navigation package.
That’s one of the best packages that Lexus offers on the RX Hybrid. It has a 12.3 inch touchscreen with navigation and a premium 12 speaker sound system. Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, Voice Commands, and Apple CarPlay are standard tech features. You also get six USB outlets and a 4G Wi-Fi subscription service.
At the Finish Line
If you’re shopping for a luxury crossover SUV and the Lexus RX 350 AWD has caught your eye, then you’d might as well get the RX 450h. It’s just about $1,200 more than the standard RX crossover. The chart topper in terms of price would have to be the 2021 RX 450h F Sport Special Edition. It has an MSRP of $51,885. If you get caught staring too long at all the options and packages, then this vehicle could cost you upwards of $50,000 in any guise. Count on it.
That being said, there aren’t many downsides to this vehicle. Plus, there aren’t many luxury hybrids that can match the RX 450h on fuel economy, safety features and performance. So, it’s a good buy in the arena of luxury vehicles and the hybrid powertrain is a bonus.